In Great Britain there are six species of deer to be found in the wild. They are Red, Sika, Fallow, Roe, Muntjac and Chinese Water Deer; the largest being Red Deer and the smallest being Muntjac.
The male of each species have antlers (except Chinese Water Deer which have tusks instead) which are generally grown in the summer and shed the following spring. You may find a shed antler in the woods but most of them are eaten by other mammals including deer to gain minerals.
Red Deer live in social groups for most of the year. The male is called a stag and the female is a hind. The female gives birth around June to a single calf. They are the largest of the six species. As their name suggests their summer coats are reddish in colour.
Sika deer are the most similar to the Red deer. Again they are known as stags, hinds and calves and have similar social behaviour but they prefer dense cover to ‘lay up in’ during the day. They are very shy and have a wider vocal range than the other deer.
Fallow are one of the most common deer to be found in our woodlands and deer parks. The male is called a buck and the female is a doe. Young fawns are born in June. Their summer coat is commonly spotted but may vary in colour from almost black in the winter to occasionally white. They are more tolerant of humans than other deer.
Roe deer are native to Britain and can be found in most counties across the country. They prefer to live in wooded areas as they mainly browse from younger trees. They are unsociable and territorial – unlike Red, Sika and Fallow deer. Roe deer are foxy coloured in summer and grey in the winter and are a medium sized deer. The male is called a buck and the female is called a doe. They can have up to three young: these are known as kids and are born in June.
Muntjac are a small deer about the size of a medium sized dog. The male known as a buck has small antlers the female is known as a doe. Unlike other deer, Muntjac breed all year round, giving birth to a single fawn every 7-8 months. They are sometimes known as the ‘Barking Deer’ since they bark repeatedly to warn other deer should they see something suspicious. They can continue this for up to half an hour. They prefer thick ‘cover’ but can be seen in fields close to ‘cover’. Muntjac is also a territorial species of deer.
Chinese Water deer are the least well known of all the species in this country. They are smaller than Roe but slightly larger than Muntjac. The bucks have no antlers but a small pair of tusks. Does can give birth to as many as seven fawns but they rarely all survive. They give birth between May and July. Chinese Water deer feed on rushes, grasses and sedges, on wet and more open ground and can be found in limited numbers.
Generally speaking, deer are found mainly in woodland as this gives them shelter from the weather and ‘cover’ to lay up in. Most deer will browse on young trees in the woods but the larger Red, Sika and Fallow are mainly grazers and move out of cover into open fields between dusk and dawn which is the best time to observe them using binoculars or a camera sitting quietly in a wood in a clearing or on a field edge.
Due to a lack of natural predators most species of deer need to be managed to keep numbers to an acceptable level within their habitat.